To Do: Migrate

This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Daina Penkiunas: Our next presenter is Bert Ho, who will be speaking on delineating maritime cultural landscapes at national parks. The subtitle is Dry Tortugas National Park and St. Croix Scenic Waterway. Bert Ho is an underwater and marine survey archaeologist with the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center. Prior to joining the SRC, Mr. Ho worked for NOAA as a field hydrographer, that is a really hard word, supporting the Office of Coast Survey by collecting various marine survey data to update charts, locate navigational hazards and respond to emergencies in ports on all coasts.

Since joining the NPS, Mr. Ho has conducted underwater archaeological site documentation, exploratory marine survey, and a variety of submerged resource science through the NPS system and with international partners in Africa, South America, Central America, and the Pacific Islands. His interest and focus are to aid parks and resource managers in their efforts to locate, document and interpret submerged cultural resources from pre-history through the historic period and continue to explore new regions of the world to discover these resources. Welcome.

Bert Ho: Hydrographer is just a fancy word for like survey monkey. I just drove a boat back and forth, if you’ve done survey. Thanks for the invitation. Thanks for thinking of us, our little office in the Park Service. When Mike Russo emailed us about participating, he specifically referenced the work we were doing at St. Croix Scenic Waterway, which is not too far away from here. I have my own opinions about that park and how it fits into the register and I’m going to try not to voice my opinions on it too strongly, so I’m not going to say things like it’s perfect, it’s a perfect Riverway Cultural Landscape. I’m not going to tell Barbara or Paul or Mike Russo if you need an example here you go. It’s on a silver platter. We just finished the draft report. I’m not going to share those opinions, but if you come to that same conclusion, maybe I did my job.

We’re the Submerged Resource Center. We’re archeologists and photographers and we work throughout the Park Service unit. We do work internationally with partners. I’m going to try to have more pictures than words, so if you don’t read all that it’s okay. We do manage a lot … Well, we don’t manage that much, but the Park Service does manage a lot of waterways and seashores and lakes, areas that sometimes you don’t really think about, like Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas. We do a variety of things. You have to go from Channel Islands, which is cold water, to Dry Tortugas at different time periods. Sometimes you’re diving on a house in Lake Mead or an airplane, and next you’re working on trees in Jackson Lake outside of Grand Teton. That’s spires. Sometimes we get to do natural resources.

A lot of what we do for parks is Section 110 and Section 106 work. This is kind of where I feel like we have a unique job where we’re field archeologists, we get to make management recommendations, but we don’t really have to make any decisions. That’s great, right? You’re not really responsible for the decisions that parks decide, but a lot of times they’re relying on us to do the underwater work. It also helps that we get to meet a lot of the people. We get to meet a lot of the resource managers and archeologists in parks and that’s great, we make new friends, but then the flip side is we also are like their sounding board. We hear the budget complaints, how they’re asked to do more with less, and in some cases they’re actually asked to do less with less, which just like everyone in this room and every resource manager, natural and cultural, doing less with less is just not acceptable. It’s not something that any resource manager is going to allow themselves to do.

We can help with 110, we can help with 106, and we try to do as much as we can. I guess if any of you guys know us personally or see our office’s Facebook page, you probably think we’re never at home, which sometimes it does feel that way, we are never at home. The St. Croix Natural Scenic Riverway is a perfect example of some of the 110 that we’ve been asked to do this year. This was a project that we just finished the report. Geneva Wright and Jessica Keller just finished the draft report. It’s being reviewed by the park. It’s a couple hundred pages of dams, which I’ll talk about. Actually, this is why I’m not going to share my opinion about it. Hopefully you’ll see that this was a great example of where the landscape is being altered by human activity and it’s continuous, they are integrated, and there’s a lot of examples.

St. Croix, if you’re familiar with the area, is actually not too far away. It’s the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. We primarily worked out of Park Headquarters on the Wisconsin Side at St. Croix Falls, but we actually stayed in Stillwater. The State’s got money for our travel and food purchases on both sides of the river, so that was good. We also got to work with regional archeologists that we don’t really work with, and that’s MWAC, Midwestern Archaeological Center. We work with SEAC a lot in the southeast, but Aaron Dempsey and Nora Grymon, I don’t know if they’re watching, but hello if you are. They were great. They’re MWAC archeologists in Lincoln and they were able to work … This is another example, they’re terrestrial archeologists. We’re primarily underwater archeologists. This a park that both of us are working together, so it kind of tells you this is a true landscape where they meet, land and water.

If you’re familiar with Minnesota and this area as well, timber was a big industry in the early nineteenth century. Starting around 1830, they were using the St. Croix River to transport the lumber from north on down eventually though the tributaries of the Mississippi. They built a number of wing dams and closing dams. They were done to manipulate the river, to manipulate the flow of the river and also to help guide deeper channels. They were also using closing dams to close off areas around islands to store some of the timber so it didn’t jam up the river and create a log jam. They had these structures built by the Army Corps of Engineers starting in 1878 to 1896. In a matter of eighteen years they built well over a hundred structures. These structures are mainly rocks with brush, and some of them have timbers in them. They would carve out some of the deeper channels so some of the boats could travel more easily, as well as just floating more logs down the river.

The project was first to kind of do the historical research, and they were able to locate some of the historical maps. They geo-rectified them. We took our site scan. We could see quickly the water is not very clear, not like my next example, but you could see the structures in the site scan. You could see them sometimes from the surface of the boat, sometimes when you ran your boat into them, but you could see that they’re there. We tried to pick examples that were diagnostic, a good wing dam, a good closing dam where there’s still a lot of structure left, and there is. Some of the organic material … Of course the brush isn’t going to last in a river that freezes every year. Some of the logs aren’t going to last either, but the rocks are still there, because we ran into them.

We mapped a number of them and came up with … I think there were about thirty that are in the report and they’re representative. They’re representative of the dams. There’s I think a hundred and twenty-seven. We documented around thirty of them. The reason I say it’s perfect in that this was humans modifying the landscape. It’s unique. There is a lot of structure remaining. I understand it doesn’t meet the criteria of having all the structure, or maybe not even most of it, but the way I look at this is it’s more of a system and the system is still intact. It’s still guiding the river. You can go there and you can see that there’s growth all over, closing off on one of the closing dams. It’s changing the river. It’s still affecting how people operate on the river. Obviously they have to go around these things that are sticking out.

As the riverscape, or as the landscape if we don’t want to add riverscape as a term, but as Jim said earlier this morning, as landscape it does fit most of the criteria. The report has been written and one of the recommendations that the authors made was this could be a district. I think as a district right now the report would be pretty complete for nomination, but if we are to create a landscape designation, I think this could also fit as well. I don’t know if I’ve convinced any of you guys. I’ve tried to share my opinion. You can read the report. That might sway you if you’re on the fence.

The next site is Dry Tortugas National Park. This is a beautiful park. The Park Service has been doing underwater work here for decades, well before I was around. It’s seventy miles west of Key West. It’s in the Florida Straits. The primary feature is Fort Jefferson, which was one of the third system forts, a large brick fort. It was never really completed, but it’s a Civil War era Union fort way down in South Florida. The Fort Jefferson National Monument … 1970 officially. Not to plug another conference, but I’ll talk more about that more at SHA in January in Washington DC, if you’ll be there.

The fort has a lot of shipwrecks, probably well over a hundred shipwrecks. As far as designating sites, there’s probably less sites because a lot of them are isolated finds. There are cannons, anchors … I don’t know how many anchors and cannons we found just in a couple weeks. This summer there were three more shipwrecks we found, and not just shipwrecks with ballast, but actual structure underneath them. Like my co-worker, Dave Conlin, says, “You can’t sling a cat without hitting a shipwreck in Dry Tortugas National Park.: Not that we would sling cats, but they are everywhere.

The reason I’m using this example is that there’s a lot of construction wrecks, there’s a lot of wrecks that contain the construction material that was destined for Fort Jefferson. There’s granite, there’s greywacky, there’s cement barrels, which are barrels that were full of cement powder, and then when they hit the water they turned into concrete barrels and the wood fell off over time. There’s a lot of examples of that. There are … I’ve got one more for you. Sorry. This one is aptly named the cement barrel wreck.

There are about eight that I could count that are shipwrecks that have significant amounts of construction material. My suggestion … Of course I can only make recommendations. I don’t make decisions, is that these could be added, if there’s a way to add to the designation of Fort Jefferson … These are directly related to the fort. They are archaeological sites that are features of the fort in my opinion; or if you want to make Dry Tortugas try to encompass more of the cultural resources there, which there are a lot and they span hundreds of years, you could add it as potentially part of a landscape.

Under the designations right now, I think just the construction wrecks could fit some of the criteria. It is kind of unique. I don’t know all of the third system forts. I don’t know how many of them actually have shipwrecks in their vicinity with this amount of construction material, so in that sense maybe these are unique. Maybe Dry Tortugas is unique for that time period and this kind of material that was destined for these forts. That’s my argument for that one. I wrote this a little while ago, and actually listening to some of the remarks this morning it could be a discontiguous district. Obviously you could try to link these construction forts and the bricks that are on there to some of the areas where they came from in Pensacola and Massachusetts and Apalachicola, where a lot of the bricks for Fort Jefferson came from, but we are parks, we do have boundaries.

I know as a society we draw imaginary lines and this site is mine and that site is yours. You take care of this, you take care of that. For management purposes, we do have to have some boundary, or else it’s just unfeasible for any agency, state, local, federal, to try to manage what’s in there. My boundary is based on an activity. It’s based on the construction of the fort, and that’s what I would propose, is that you take these construction wrecks and if they’re unique, great. If they’re not, I could argue that they’re unique. Again, another opinion. I mean cement barrels, and there’s also cement sacks which are also interesting. I could argue that this is unique. It may meet criteria A, C and D, or I would just say add them to Fort Jefferson’s monument designation if that’s possible. Add these as archaeological features that are associated with that.

I don’t know if I swayed anyone with my strong opinions that I did not share, but I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for having Submerged Resources Center here. I know Dave Collin wished he could be here as well as the other archeologists in our office. If you have any questions we’ll wait till then, right? Thank you.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119